…as progress reportedly made on UK-US trade talks – two weeks ahead of US presidential election

Thu 22 Oct 2020
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The ‘special relationship’ looked strong this week with the US and UK talking up the prospects of a trade deal as they launched their fifth round of talks, reported Reuters.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer told a security conference he was “very pleased” with progress in negotiations with the UK and predicted a trade deal “reasonably soon”. He has named UK trade talks as one of his top priorities for 2020, and has called for full access for US agricultural products.

Pressure on EU

The Sun reported earlier this week that the UK had stepped up talks with the US as a way of turning the screw on the EU during faltering negotiations. 

In an attempt to pressurise the EU, UK international trade minister Liz Truss announced the UK is “intensifying negotiations so we are in a good position to move forward after the US election”.

She added: “We want a deal that delivers for all parts of the UK and is forward-leaning in modern areas like tech and services.”

Election factor

With the US presidential election less than two weeks away, Global Trade Review focused on the impact of settling thorny issues such as China relations, the WTO and the EU. 

Senior international trade advisor Welles Orr anticipated that a Joe Biden administration would “want to take a different approach to China that would involve more allies, rather than a strictly ‘US go it alone’ approach to getting China to go along with the US’ wishes”.

However, he said there would be no sudden swings of policy, and that other tools, in addition to tariffs, would be considered.

EU tariffs

On the tariff front, Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden will need to decide about rescinding tariffs on imports from key allies such as the EU, and it is expected that he would work far more closely with Europe than President Trump. A similarly engaged approach would likely be applied to reforming the WTO, suggests GTR.

US politicians and advisors to Biden have voiced concerns about the UK government’s plan to override elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol part of the Withdrawal Agreement, IOE has reported.

The US is a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and Biden’s chief foreign policy advisor, Anthony Blinken, tweeted at the end of September:

“Joe Biden is committed to preserving the hard-earned peace and stability in Northern Ireland. As the UK and EU work out their relationship, any arrangements must protect the Good Friday Agreement and prevent the return of a hard border." 

Disapplying or modifying parts of the Withdrawal Agreement could endanger the prospects of a UK-US trade deal, Democrats have suggested.